Glasgow Archaeological Society [Hrsg.]
The Antonine Wall report: being an account of excavations, etc., made under the direction of the Glasgow Archæological Society during 1890 - 93 — Glasgow, 1899

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the antonine wall eeport.


enough, there was a wooden breastwork of some kind as shown
in some of the Roman triumphal arches, but no traces of it
survive, and the argument for its details, if not for its existence,
is doubtful at the best.

4. The Meaning of the Berm.

The problem of the "berm"—a military word, our adoption
of which must not be held as committing us to any theory of
the purpose of the thing it denotes—has been the occasion of
more speculation than almost any other subject connected with
the recent explorations of the wall. Why is it that there is
invariably this ledge or platform between the base of the wall
and the edge of the ditch ? Why is it that, under different
conditions, the width of this ledge varies so considerably? Why
is it that, whilst modern schools of fortification regard the berm
as a weak point in a rampart, and consequently restrict its width
to the narrowest limit—about 6 feet being the very widest
admissible—the Roman of set purpose made his berm, as we
have termed it, not a mere narrow scarce-perceptible ledge, but
a great wide platform ? Was it from some principle of structural
necessity that this was done, or was it to serve some strategic
end in the methods of defence ?

The German Limes (which, however, is not a military
defensive work), where it consists of a single earthen rampart
and fosse, cannot have had a berm of more than 2 or 3 feet in
breadth. The rampart, as it now stands, slopes continuously up
from the bottom of the ditch. In the vallum of the Tyne and
Solway barrier there is a broad interval between each of the
two main earthen aggers and the edge of the ditch. In the
murus of the Tyne and Solway barrier there is, as in the
Vallum of Antonine, a broad berm. What is its meaning ?

It well admits of question whether, save in the great
ramparts between Tyne and Solway and in our vallum, this
broad berm—externally visible, a plain flat ledge of nearly five-
and-twenty feet between the rampart and the scarp of the
ditch — is a characteristic of Roman fortification. It differs
materially in character from the berms of the main ramparts
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